Every day, hardworking and dedicated employees across the great state of Texas face workplace harassment or discrimination, while others are denied the opportunity for gainful employment, promotions, or new opportunities due to unfair hiring practices. If you or a loved one is facing this situation, then there are two important things to keep in mind: you do not need to tolerate illegal discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and that you have a right to pursue legal action against those who have violated your rights.
The fact is there are Federal, state and local laws which prohibit private persons, organizations and governments from discriminating against people because of certain protected characteristics. The most well-known laws include the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities in Employment Act, but there are numerous other federal and state laws which protect individuals from discrimination or harassment.
Employment discrimination happens all too frequently, unfortunately, and can be defined as happening when an employee or a potential employee is treated less favorably than others simply because of their background or personal characteristics which have been protected by law. These protections include those related to sex, gender, age, religion, race, ethnicity, disability, and so forth. And this discrimination can occur at any time, whether a person is looking for employment or long after having been hired on as an employee.
Refusing to hire someone because they are a woman, because they are Latino, or because they are Muslim, are all forms of workplace discrimination, but there are many other protected traits or characteristics. While America hasn’t always had a perfect track record, it has continually strived to provide equality and justice for all, with the idea that we are all created equal, just as it was written in the Declaration of Independence.
While those may be the ideals our great nation has espoused since 1776, there are still a great many who face unjust discrimination on a daily basis and who aren’t given a fair shake in the workplace simply due to some innate quality and having no basis on their overall job performance or ability to do the job. This is why further laws have been written in order to hold employers accountable and to protect a wide range of people who have often been the subject of discrimination.
While not every workplace hardship rises to the legal definition of discrimination, there are a range of laws that cover a wide variety of discriminatory actions and protect individuals from actions such as a failure to hire, failure to promote, failure to protect from ongoing harassment whether from supervisors or coworkers, as well as unjust termination based on a protected characteristic.
The following are a handful of laws that have been established to protect against unlawful discrimination:
- Gender Discrimination
- Race Discrimination
- National Origin Discrimination
- Age Discrimination, for workers 40 years and over
- Disability Discrimination, which also requires an employer to provide a reasonable workplace accommodation, so the employee may perform his or her job.
- Family Responsibility Discrimination, which is an umbrella term to protect against biases about how an employee will or should act if they have care giving responsibilities at home, for example when a child is born or when a family member falls gravely ill.
- Pregnancy Discrimination, which is meant to protect you if an employer denies maternity leave or refuses to hire because of a pregnancy.
- Religious Discrimination, which also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation for their employees’ beliefs and religious practices unless it would cause the employer an undue hardship.
- Sexual Orientation or Gender Laws—While not a statewide protection, there are certain local laws meant to protect against this form of discrimination, like those in Houston for city workers.
How to File a Complaint
Pursuing an employment discrimination claim can be a complex and nerve-wracking process, especially for those who don’t have a lawyer assisting them.
The Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division is in charge of investigating claims related to workplace discrimination, which can be made via phone, fax, or in person. The claim should contain details about the offense, including the date(s), reason for complaint, and names of those involved both directly and indirectly, including the names of people who were in a similar situation but were treated differently or more favorably.
An investigator will evaluate the merits of a claim, and any claims filed with the Texas Workforce Commission are also filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that is in charge of enforcing laws related to workplace discrimination.
The EEOC requires claims to be filed within 180 days and in most cases, an official complaint must be filed in order to pursue any additional lawsuit. If the EEOC finds that discrimination did occur, then it will work with both parties to reach a settlement.
It’s important to note that workplace discrimination laws are also in place to protect workers opposing discriminatory conditions and who then face retaliation for their actions. These unlawful retaliations can include a refusal to hire, demotion, transferring to undesirable job duties or outright termination for having reported discrimination.
It is hard enough having to face discrimination or harassment in the workplace, but it can be a whole new struggle to speak out and fight against those who are behaving not only unethically and immorally, but also illegally by discriminating. It can also be complicated to pursue a claim because the procedural laws can vary depending on when and where you file the claim, and you may also have to wait some time before the EEOC investigators will be able to process and investigate your claim. Meanwhile, you may be out of a job or continue to face ongoing discrimination or harassment in the workplace.
This type of workplace discrimination can be extremely damaging to the self-esteem and mental well-being of employees, and while the laws are there to protect you, they can only work for you if you speak out. Unethical businesses and employers will always slip through the cracks, which is why those who suffer discrimination must take steps to resolve these matters using the legal resources available to them. Not only does this action help to rectify your individual problem, but it can also set an example for others to come forward if they find themselves in similar circumstances, and help put an end to the discriminatory actions or practices of unscrupulous employers.
Taking action can be a serious hurdle, and while Federal and Texas law is on the side of the victims in these matters, you must also have proof that supports the allegations of discrimination. Texas workplace harassment lawyers that specialize in this area of law will be able to assist you in gathering the necessary evidence and show you how and when to report these matters to the appropriate Federal and state agencies. In some instances, a civil lawsuit may be warranted. Your best course of action if you have faced or continue to face workplace harassment or discrimination is to speak with an experienced lawyer who specializes in this area of law. It isn’t enough to find a lawyer who understands employment law, but to find a lawyer who focuses on harassment and discrimination and can provide the custom-tailored legal services you need and deserve.
The team at Fears Nachawati is passionate about protecting individuals against unjust and unfair harassment or discrimination and has represented cases involving gender discrimination, disability discrimination, employer retaliation, sexual harassment, as well as numerous other forms of employer misconduct and discrimination.
Having an understanding and compassionate lawyer on your side can help minimize the anxiety and stress that often arises as a result of speaking out against these detestable actions by employers. If you have experienced discrimination or have suffered retaliation for opposing your own unlawful treatment or that of a coworker, contact the experienced lawyers at Fears Nachawati for a confidential evaluation of your case without charge or further obligation.
Don’t wait to exercise your rights. Give the team at Fears Nachawati a call at (866) 705-7584 or visit one of our offices located throughout the great state of Texas, including in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin.